Whatsapp, Skype, Hike soon to come under regulatory regime; TRAI seeks industry views

Whatsapp, Skype, Hike soon to come under regulatory regime; TRAI seeks industry views

After coming out with draft regulations for telecommunications operators to stop pesky calls and texts, the Telecom Authority of India (TRAI) has issued the much-awaited consultation paper to debate whether the over-the-top (OTT) players such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype, among others, should be brought under the regulatory regime.

In a statement on Monday, the telecom regulator said that the paper titled as ‘Regulatory Framework for Over The Top Communications Services’ aims to discuss and analyse changes that could be required in the current regulatory framework to govern these companies, along with the manner “in which such changes should be affected”.

According to TRAI, the scope of the current consultation would be regulatory issues and economic concerns related to those OTT services that are “same or similar” to the services offered by telecommunications companies. “The objective of this consultation paper is to analyse and discuss the implications of the growth of OTTs; the relationship between OTT players and TSPs; the similarity, if any, between services provided by the TSPs and OTT players…,” it said in the statement.

In the consultation paper, TRAI has sought views from the industry on which OTT services should be considered as the same or similar to those offered by telecommunications entities. Also, whether the regulatory or licensing imbalance has any impact on telecom network investments, and how OTT players can take part in injecting investments in telecom networks.

“Would inter-operability among OTT services and also inter-operability of their services with TSPs services promote competition and benefit the users,” it added.

TRAI tightened rules for all telecom players, including handsets companies, in the country in July this year by setting up a new regulatory framework to solve the problem of unsolicited commercial communications (UCC). The unsolicited texts or calls are serious issues and new norms require subscribers to register for unwanted calls and texts from telemarketing companies if one is registered with preference set as fully blocked.

OTT communication players, which include Whatsapp, Hike, Viber and Skype, provide messaging or telephony services over the internet and are similar to that of telecom companies. However, these entities have been unaffected from these regulations until now. However, telecom players have reportedly raised concerns on new draft rules, saying that the new norms are flawed and could direct the unwanted calls and texts traffic to OTT platforms.